Alive by R. S. Thomas

It is alive. It is you,

God. Looking out I can see,

no death. The earth moves, the

sea moves, the wind goes

on its exuberant

journeys. Many creatures

reflect you, the flowers

your colour, the tides the precision

of your calculations. There

is nothing too ample

for you to overflow, nothing

so small that your workmanship

is not revealed. I listen

and it is you speaking.

I find the place where you lay

warm. At night, if I waken,

there are the sleepless conurbations

of the stars. The darkness

is the deepening shadow

of your presence; the silence a

process in the metabolism

of the being of love.

.

.

by R. S. Thomas

from Laboratories of the Spirit

(1975)

Night Sky by R.S. Thomas

What they are saying is
that there is life there, too;
that the universe is the size it is
to enable us to catch up.

They have gone on from the human;
that shining is a reflection
of their intelligence. Godhead
is the colonisation by mind

of untenanted space. It is its own
light, a statement beyond language
of conceptual truth. Every night
is a rinsing myself of the darkness

that is in my veins. I let the stars inject me
with fire, silent as it is far,
but certain in its cauterising
of my despair. I am a slow

traveller. But there is more than time
to arrive. Resting in the intervals
of my breathing, I pick up the signals
relayed to me from a periphery I comprehend.

by R. S. Thomas
from Frequencies (1978)

Nightride by Gillian Clarke

The road unwinding under our wheels

New in the headlamps like a roll of foil.

The rain is a recorder writing tunes

In telegraph wires, kerbs and cats’ eyes,

Reflections and the lights of little towns.

 

He turns his head to look at me.

“Why are you quiet?” Shiny road rhythm,

Rain rhythm, beat of the windscreen wipers,

I push my knee against his in the warmth

And the car thrusts the dark and rain away.

 

The child sleeps, and I reflect, as I breathe

His brown hair, and watch the apple they gave him

Held in his hot hands, that a tree must ache

With the sweet weight of the round rosy fruit,

As I with Dylan’s head, nodding on its stalk.

 

by Gillian Clarke

from The Sundial, Gwasg Gomer, 1978)

Tawny Owl by Gillian Clarke

Plain song of owl

moonlight between cruciform

shadows of hunting.

 

She sings again

closer

in the sycamore,

 

her coming quieter

than the wash

behind the wave,

 

her absence darker

than privacy

in the leaves’ tabernacle.

 

Compline. Vigil.

Stations of the dark.

A flame floats on oil

 

in her amber eye.

Shoulderless shadow

nightwatching.

 

Kyrie. Kyrie.

 

by Gillian Clarke

from New Poems

‘From The Dimly Lit Hall…’ by Osip Mandelstam

From the dimly lit hall

you slipped out in a light shawl.

 

The servants slept on,

we disturbed no one…

 

by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam. His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)

(1908)

translated by James Greene

Evans by R. S. Thomas

Evans? Yes, many a time

I came down his bare flight

Of stairs into the gaunt kitchen

With its wood fire, where crickets sang

Accompaniment to the black kettle’s

Whine, and so into the cold

Dark to smother in the thick tide

Of night that drifted about the walls

Of his stark farm on the hill ridge.

 

It was not the dark filling my eyes

And mouth appalled me; not even the drip

Of rain like blood from the one tree

Weather-tortured. It was the dark

Silting the veins of that sick man

I left stranded upon the vast

And lonely shore of his bleak bed.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Poetry for Supper (1958)

Why East Wind Chills by Dylan Thomas

Why east wind chills and south wind cools

Shall not be known till windwell dries

And west’s no longer drowned

In winds that bring the fruit and rind

Of many a hundred falls;

Why silk is soft and the stone wounds

The child shall question all his days.

Why night-time rain and the breast’s blood

Both quench his thirst he’ll have a black reply.

 

When cometh Jack Frost? the children ask.

Shall they clasp a comet in their fists?

Not till, from high and low, their dust

Sprinkles in children’s eyes a long-last sleep

And dusk is crowded with the children’s ghosts,

Shall a white answer echo from the rooftops.

 

All things are known; the stars’ advice

Calls some content to travel with the winds,

Though what the stars ask as they round

Time upon time the towers of the skies

Is heard but little till the stars go out.

 

I hear content, and ‘Be content’

Ring like a handbell through the corridors,

And ‘Know no answer,’ and I know

No answer to the children’s cry

Of echo’s answer and the man of frost

And ghostly comets over the raised fists.

 

by Dylan Thomas

Flight by Anna Akhmatova

For O. A. Kuzmin-Karavaev

 

‘If we could only reach the shore,

My dear!’ – ‘Sh! Be quiet!’…

And we started down the stairs,

Hardly breathing, searching for keys.

 

Past the house where we had once

Danced and drunk wine,

Past the Senate’s white columns

To where it was dark, dark.

 

‘What are you doing? You’re mad!’ –

‘Not mad. In love with you!

This wind is wide and billowing,

Gaily it will take the ship!

 

Throat tight with horror,

The canoe took us in the gloom…

The tang of an ocean cable

Burnt my trembling nostrils.

 

‘Tell me – if you know youself:

Am I asleep? Is this a dream? …’

Only the oars splashed evenly

Along the heavy Neva wave.

 

But the black sky grew lighter,

Someone called to us from a bridge.

With both hands I seized the chain

Of the cross on my breast.

 

Powerless, I was lifted in your arms

Like a young girl on to the deck

Of the white yacht, to meet the light

Of incorruptible day.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (Summer, 1914)

– from Белая стая (White Flock, 1917) translation by D. M. Thomas

Silver by Walter de la Mare

Slowly, silently, now the moon

Walks the night in her silver shoon;

This way, and that, she peers, and sees

Silver fruit upon silver trees;

One by one the casements catch

Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;

Couched in his kennel, like a log,

With paws of silver sleeps the dog;

From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep

Of doves in silver feathered sleep

A harvest mouse goes scampering by,

With silver claws, and silver eye;

And moveless fish in the water gleam,

By silver reeds in a silver stream.

 

by Walter de la Mare (1873 – 1956)

The Cool Night Air

Once more spring has passed and it is now summer. A cool breeze drifts past the window.
I think of childhood and how the days of summer did not end back then.
Now, when the light begins to fail, I want to go for a walk in the cool night air.

Where to? I do not know.
Until what time? I do not care.
If I left I would not return. What is there to return to?

People have dreams and make memories in the dark hours. Especially during the summer when the darkness is a soothing comfort not a sign of insensitive death.

As a child you think adults have freedom while you yourself have routines and people to answer to.
You answer to your parents, your teachers, you community.
When you are an adult you still have chains but now they are invisible.

The barbed wire of etiquette twisted around you harming you every time you allow others to treat you as an inferior for decorum’s sake.
The razor blades of financial worries giving you the death of a thousand cuts.
The pressure of self-inflicted moral restraints contorting who you were, are and will be.

Existentialism poses the question asking what exactly is stopping you from dropping everything and walking away. These tethers we bind ourselves with are not real, physical, things. But they are there all the same.
An adult answers to their employer, to their family, to their peers and to the government that cannot see them as anything other than a statistic to be checked off the page.

The night air soothes the skin. Caresses it like a woman placating the injured thinking this tactile moment of amity, invading the solitude of suffering, will ease the tormented and assure their soul.

I will walk away from the lights of mankind’s pointless struggle against the beautiful night but in the end, no matter what direction I walk in, eventually I will return to it.
The only other choice is to blindly walk off a cliff into the awaiting pitch black sea who will claim me for her own. A phone will ring at the chapel down the bottom of the slope and the Samaritans will be told it was too late but they will go home in the end and sleep peacefully.

I cannot go because I will not return. There is nowhere to go. I am ensnared by responsibilities others have foisted on me because of the choices I made and the indecisions I allowed. I am in a gilded cage of my own creation and soon the night will past. I will wait. Wait until it returns once again. The cycle will continue until autumn kills it once more, dressing the floor with its golden red entrails and we bow our heads during the winter songs where the world is washed away to muddied grey and white tones.

The air is stale in here. I can breathe – but only with a heavy heart. I will embrace the night and sleep. I know when I awake the light wll have been victorious over the night and the cycle of maturity will repeat once more.


I have the past few evenings wanted to go for a walk. I have not though. I don’t know where I would go. There is nowhere but to the town with its glittering lights and dirty covered paving. To sit in a bar and drink until the ring of the bell for last orders and the long, lonely, walk back home. Tomorrow is another day – a day like any other day.

Unplanned piece. Flawed but then it fills the blog until the next entry.

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